Launch of Agenda Editions’ No Dammed Tears by Jan Farquharson (£8.99) at The Irish Centre, Camden Town, January 7th, 2006. This event was held at 2.30pm in the Ballroom and was very well attended, with poets, friends and relations of Jan Farquharson, his widow, Barbara Farquharson and John Torrance, childhood friend, fellow poet and Literary Executor of his estate. John Torrance acted as compere, and Patricia McCarthy introduced the occasion as editor and publisher of the moving, powerful sonnets. Sarah Hopkins, poet and assistant editor of Tears In The Fence and Oliver Bernard, translator of Rimbaud’s Collected Poems (Penguin) and of an Appolinaire selection (originally published by Penguin and now published in a revised edition by Anvil Press). (Available from The Wheelwrights, Fletching Street, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6TL)

Grey Gowrie’s Domino Hymn, Poems from Harefield (Agenda Editions/Greville Press £10) was well reviewed in the Independent by Peter Forbes. (Available from The Wheelwrights, Fletching Street, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6TL)

AGENDA evening in Cork City at Tigh Fili
An enjoyable evening was had to celebrate Agenda and its Irish links with Agenda poets on 20th October 2005. Even by Irish standards, there was a terrible deluge in which Noah himself would have complained and everyone arrived soaking wet. However, the space was good, the lighting inviting and the poets read very well. Among others present were: Macdara Woods and Eilean Ni Chuileanáin who had come down from Dublin (editors of Cyphers and both well known poets), Adam Wyeth (who has made a very fine film of Desmond O’Grady – bites of it to be shown later on this website), Thomas McCarthy, Robert Chandler, Paddy Bushe. Agenda greatly appreciated the generous hosts from Tigh Fili.

BANDON BOOKS in County Cork are delighted to be the main distributor in Ireland for Agenda and Agenda Editions. Back copies of Agenda are in stock, as are new collections from Agenda Editions by John Montague (translating Claude Esteban) (£7.99) and Desmond O’Grady’s Kurdish Poems (£9.99), both funded generously by the Arts Council of Ireland.. For further details and orders, please contact Matthew Geden, Bandon Books, Howard Court, Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland. E-mail Tel: 00353 (0)2354791.


About 60 people, including poets, editors and academics, attended a very successful launch of Agenda's double Australian issue, kindly hosted by the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, Kings College, London, 28 Russell Square.

From left to right: Merryn Andrews, neice of the Editor; Patricia McCarthy, Editor of Agenda;  H.E. the Hon. Richard Alston, High Commissioner for Australia and Anna Nieuwenhuysen; Cultural Advisor to the High Commission.

Dr. Ian Henderson warmly greeted everyone, including H.E. the Hon.Richard Alston, High Commissioner for Australia, and the Cultural Advisor, Anna Nieuwenhuysen. Patricia McCarthy then introduced the exciting issue which, she said, proved that Australia is a vital, unique and highly energetic force in its own right. She quoted the Australian poet, Judith Wright, matriarch of modern Australian poetry who wrote:

When all the living's done
it's poems that remain.

She said that the poems had been chosen not because they were specifically 'Australian'. Though many are deeply rooted in locality, they transcend time, place and nation and give that extraordinary shiver down the spine, standing as impressive international works in the English language.

In Agenda's long publishing history of international issues (along with Special issues and general anthology issues), she commented that there had never been an Australian issue. Scripsi (a highly regarded Australian poetry journal no longer in print) had invited Agenda to supply a whole section for one of their issues in 1987, and, of course a few individual Australian poets had appeared over the years in Agenda 's pages. She quoted poet John Kinsella (described by Martin Dodsworth in this issue as a 'genius') who said: 'A literary journal culture is integral to the vitality of poetry and language itself. Literary journals are the crucibles of the word.'

She hoped, then, that this Australian issue would indeed be a 'crucible of the word' for poets and readers alike, introducing, through both poems and essays, voices bound to echo importantly in the future. That has always been what Agenda is about, she explained: discovering and promoting important, authentic voices and, as in this issue, giving space to long poems when they deserve it. A newer concern of Agenda, initiated by her, is the promotion of young poets via the online Broadsheets, with one or occasionally two chosen poets given wider coverage in each issue of the magazine. Two young Australian poets had been chosen for this issue: Petra White, born in Adelaide in 1975 and living in Melbourne, and Joanna Preston, a thirty two year old expatriate Australian currently living in West Yorkshire and studying for an M Phil degree at the University of Glamorgan.

Patricia McCarthy referred to the poet Barry Hill's prizewinning biography: Broken Song: T.G.H. Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (Vintage, 2003) in which Strehlow was quoted as saying of the Aboriginal Songs: ' "If everything is vitally interconnected, then the whole world is a poem, an enchantment simply awaiting notation, or indication".' She suggested that the poems in the pages of the issue encourage the thought that the whole world is, indeed, 'an enchantment'.

Clive James then gave an entertaining homily, talking about the making and the publishing of poetry, about his own poetry and reading a highly evocative poem on his own childhood.

Clive James talking with Maria Cristina Fumagalli at the Launch.

The Australian contributors who had managed to be in attendance read first: David Brooks who read a very moving elegy and love poem, leaving readers to treasure those poems of his actually in the issue; Katherine Gallagher who read three of her four fine poems from the issue, 'Entente', 'Graffitist' and 'Hybrid'; Sandra Hill who also read her two poems from the issue, 'Intersection' and 'A Melbourne Autumn', and Clive James who chose to read two poems other than his 'Literary Lunch' in the issue. A surprise reader was Philip Neilson who read his poem 'Crusoe Revisited'. It had arrived too late to be included in the issue but will appear on the website. Peter Porter unfortunately had had to cancel his reading the day before because of family matters, Alison Croggon had been unable to change her plane ticket and so missed the launch, sadly, by two days, and Barry Hill, likewise, had intended to come but had been unable to change his ticket.

Katherine Gallagher and Sandra Hill who read their poems from the issue.

Steven O'Brien, an Agenda poet of Irish descent discovered by Patricia McCarthy whose first collection Agenda Editions will publish, Michael Venditozzi whose first poems also appeared in Agenda, and who has kindly agreed to help running the Agenda website, Patricia McCarthy and Colin Wilcockson, the well-known medievalist and poet from Pembroke College, Cambridge, a new trustee of Agenda, all read chosen poems from the issue to air voices of Australian poets who could not be there.

The occasion was rounded off by the resonant voice of Steven O'Brien who sings, like his father and grandfather before him, in both English and Irish in pubs in England and Ireland. His powerful, unaccompanied rendition of the an Australian ballad 'Ben Hall', prefaced by a fascinating personal anecdote, received much applause.

Patricia McCarthy and new trustee of Agenda, Colin Wilcockson, Medievalist and poet from Pembroke College, Cambridge.


John Montague and Prix Goncourt prizewinner (the first ever Prix Goncourt to be given for poetry rather than prose) Claude Esteban gave a dynamic reading of their joint venture published by Agenda Editions in Dun Laoghaire at the Poetry Festival there in May. Copies (£7.99 each) of A Smile Between The Stones can be ordered from Agenda Editions, The Wheelwrights, Fletching Street, Mayfield, East Sussex TN20 6TL.

Desmond O'Grady's Kurdish Poems of Love and Liberty (£9.99 each) were launched in Dingle, Co Kerry, in the exotic atmosphere of the Club Havana run by Tim and his charming wife at the Poetry Festival there run by Micheal Fanning in June 2005. Patricia McCarthy, editor of Agenda Editions, and Desmond read his moving poems alternately and then in a duet.

Another launch of Desmond O'Grady's book took place in Bandon, Co. Cork, kindly sponsored by Matthew Geden, a great supporter of Agenda and an Agenda poet from Kinsale, and his bookshop.

THE WHEREABOUTS OF Yevgeny Yevtushenko

In the ’60s and ’70s, the name Yevgeny Yevtushenko was on everyone’s lips as the daring young rebel who broke the Iron Curtain and wrote freshly and fearlessly as an important voice of the new, post Stalin generation, pushing ‘frontiers’ out of his way, as the spokesman for an age. However, as he admitted in the conversation below, he felt he was created by the West as a rebel against Communism, because the West liked this, in their desire to see all Communists as devils, though some were obviously idealists. Not so much is heard of Yevgeny Yevtushenko nowadays in the West, but he is very much alive and prolific, still providing consummate performances of his poetry, a veritable Hamlet onstage and wearing his seventy plus years very well - such as in Listowel Writers’ Week, County Kerry, and in Dingle, County Kerry in June 2005.

Patricia McCarthy, editor of Agenda, was in Dingle to launch Desmond O’Grady’s Kurdish Poems of Love and Liberty, (£7.99), published recently by Agenda Editions, with a generous grant from the Arts Council of Ireland

Over lunch in a well-known fish restaurant with Yevtushenko, his son and Michael Fanning, the Irish Medical Doctor poet, a native of Dingle, Yevtushenko revealed a lot about his life, his poetry, and the novels on which he is now concentrating.

He recalled, in his childhood, hearing old folk rhymes from older women and from widows when the men were on the front and the teenage Yevtushenko and his peers were the only males in the village. He said: ‘Rhymes help remember poetry’. Explaining in Russian, by handwritten scribbles in Patricia McCarthy’s Irish ‘copy book’ purchased in the local supermarket, he demonstrated his innovations in folk rhymes which afforded space for freedom for the first time.

In his introduction to the big anthology, Twentieth Century Russian Poetry, Selected and with an Introduction by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, (Fourth Estate, London 1993), he claims that ‘a poet in Russia is more than a poet.’ However, though known in the West more for ‘political’ poetry than his love poetry, for releasing ‘the secret freedom’ sacred to the poet that the dogmatists could not tolerate, he does not wish to be interpreted just as an accessible political poet. To be sure, he worked for newspapers when young and his famous anti-semitic poem, ‘Babii Yar’, caused a stir. It ‘broke the conspiracy of silence’, was on the front pages of the most powerful newspapers internationally, in Time, Le Monde, for example, and he received over one thousand telegrams about it. It was from this point that people began to translate him and to make him known in the West. He admires Pasternak, for example, for his inaccessible, complicated poetry and, unlike the latter, Yevgeny can be recalled saying disarmingly in the 1990s: ‘My guilt is my simplicity - / My crime is my clarity’ and, at another time: ‘I am just the ragtag voice of all the voiceless’, though in ‘Prologue’ (1955), he did talk of some sacrifice: ‘What if art be my torment?’ – even if this sacrifice included giving up the idea of becoming a professional footballer. He was, he insisted, famous first in Russia as a love poet, and, to him, ‘life is a mixture of politics, love, frustration, philosophy’. What he has always aimed at doing is to ‘make a portrait of all the ingredients of life’. He writes, he said, out of tenderness and out of shame. And it is this ‘shame’, he explained, that all political poems come from.

In talking about his public performances, he said his aim is to try to transform listeners into readers. He recites always as a ventriloquist, and can feel the voice of his father when performing his poems. He was influenced by songs of the Second World War, and by the crowds that gave him no fear of people en masse. The essential thing, he insisted, is what some actors miss: the importance of combining content and music. ‘We have to be grateful to Yeats on behalf of all poets’ for this. Indeed, the first criteria he uses for choosing a poem are emotions and music, secondly thoughts and thirdly philosophy. He likes all styles of poetry expects a poem to have many ingredients, just like the forty ingredients he uses in the Borsch he makes.

He said that he feels young poets need some kind of spiritual renaissance. There has been enough mockery, sarcasm and cynicism, often coupled with irony. But it is essential to have a little ingredient of romanticism and idealism for a poet to survive. This links to his youthful wish for ‘Ministers of Tenderness and Truth’, a wish he later abandoned, having seen how many egotistical poets were at each other’s throats. He defines ‘good poetry’ as a confession of oneself, yet, as seen above, he knows the danger of a poet falling into narcissism. All in all, he concludes: ‘Young poets don’t try to lift big enough boulders.’

Yevgeny has had many famous friends from all disciplines of art: Picasso, Eliot, Fellini, Shostakovich (who wrote a symphony inspired by his poem ‘Babii Yar’) and he feels that all the arts stem from the one root, have the same source and should be interlinked as in Paris of the 30s, 40s and 50s.

Nowadays, in the post Glasnost age, he discussed his predilection for writing novels, vindicated, perhaps, by John Steinbeck who said he could predict that, in the twenty first century, Yevgeny, while being highly regarded as a very good poet, would become more famous as a novelist. Steinbeck called him a great storyteller, the only man on earth who knows both sides of a divided world, who knows the Russian peasants, and the intellectuals. (Yevtushenko has described himself as being ‘half peasant’ and half intellectual’. He was brought up in Siberia where many were packed off to). In his recent novel he has combined autobiography with fiction in a most innovative way.

It is apparent, even when conversing with Yevgeny, that he like stories/narratives and ballads. He calls himself a pupil of Kipling whom he sees as having reflected reality in the days of colonialism. A poet he admires greatly is the American Walt Whitman, while novelists who are his mentors include: Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita), Romain Gary (The Promise), William Golding (The Spire), Patrick Susskind, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

One wonders if Yevgeny has yet shown all his ‘faces behind the face’, and also if his own prediction will come true. In ancient Russia, tongues were cut out of living poets and buried. Yevgeny predicts: ‘A time will come when the harvest of severed tongues will reach the clouds’. Let us hope so.

Left to right, Sasha's girlfriend, Libby; Desmond O'Grady; Patricia McCarthy, editor of Agenda; Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and Sasha, his son. Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, June 2005.

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